I might redo this with a 2 song per artist rule
1. Delorean – “Grow”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv02hK8tC5k
This song is my number one because I think it’s the most uplifting song of the year. Like many songs on “Subiza” (my favorite album of the year), this song is thick and sweet, like maple syrup. But it’s not a straight sugar-rush kind of song. There is a nostalgic undertone throughout the song that turns the song from a feel-good house jam to a bittersweet anthem.
2. Onra – “High Hopes”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA0CTDEggzs
Onra takes the "chillwave" approach to a new level that deserves to be taken more seriously than many of the bandwagon-hopping artists who basically are saying, "So, remember the 90s?" (Washed Out and Neon Indian are exempt from this statement). For this track, the Parisian producer slows down an obscure 80s sample, thickens and filters the beat, and adds synths to make a wall of sound. Right now this is probably sounding like typical chillwave. But instead of merely inducing nostalgia, Onra makes a super slick beat that doesn't sound like anything that could have come out before 2010. On his other tracks, Onra manipulates samples brilliantly and lets the chopped up beats do the talking. But on this vocal-driven track he basically just takes smooth funk to outer space and produces it as if he's a leftfield hip hop beatmaker. It's like chillwave without all the shyness. Above all else, it was just a sweet R&B jam I could blast in the Volvo this summer with the windows down.
3. Breakbot – “Baby I’m Yours”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjP0upRmumc
This is just a really awesome disco song. More modern dance producers should realize what Breakbot realizes; Good production and cool sound effects will only get you so far. Good dance music still ultimately relies on good songwriting and melody.
4. Bag Raiders – “Sunlight”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FF62ugRwiY
“Sunlight” is an extremely over-the-top and sugary aural assault. This catchy electro-pop song just throws everything it can at you to make you dance. There is a lack of grooviness in this song, which is odd for the Bag Raiders, but the ungrooviness is supplemented by its intensity.
5. Big Boi – “Shutterbugg”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ_iZbcb1uw
The beat is a wonderful homage to old school funk, from the Soul II Soul “Back to Life” reference to the heavy usage of vocoders (not autotune) in the bassline and also the chorus melody. Roger Troutman would have been proud. The speedy and articulate rapping is very impressive as well. The free associative lyrical style reminds me of "A Milli," except there's no room to breathe. It's more difficult to dissect. If "A Milli" is train-of-thought, "Shutterbugg" is a bullet train.
6. Sleigh Bells – “Kids”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bcLWZY7kAQ
Like most of the album, “Kids” is just a really badass song with a gangsta beat and raunchy guitars. Sleigh Bells is end of the day music because whatever you put on afterwards is going to sound boring by comparison.
7. Flying Lotus – “Computer Face: Pure Being”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=il78kyjCDkc
This song sounds organic and natural despite being very electronic based. The fried synths tumble and whirl with the beat and keep expanding without the obvious stacking of instruments that many electronic artists succumb to. The synths just seem to grow and tangle like vines.
8. Butterfly Bones – “<3”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5Imbi8OFqE
You really don’t need a good reason to like a song as fun as this one. For Portlanders, consider this up and coming San Francisco band the less psychedelic version of Starfucker. Why wouldn't you want to listen to fun 80s teenybopper synth-pop made by white male hipsters in 2010?
9. Earl Sweatshirt – “Earl”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US8uBSCt
If you are a rap fan and you haven’t checked out Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All yet, you need to. This collective of ten teenagers has come out with 8 albums this year, and as far as I can tell they’re all good. They have a DIY aesthetic and look up to experimental composers and electronic artists more than rappers. And I haven’t been so creeped out by lyrics since I was eight years old and Eminem came out. And that’s when I was eight! Consider OFWGKTA the modern day art-punk version of the Wu Tang Clan. Earl Sweatshirt is only 16 and probably the best rapper of the group. The song’s production overpowers the vocals when listened to on headphones; the rapping is buried deep in a blizzard of sound. And when you turn to the bass down to hear the lyrics better, it’s a completely different experience. The rhymes are super complex and the flow is extremely fluid. Everything about the song can only be described as disorienting. Go to Oddfuture.com and download all their albums.
10. Broken Social Scene – “Texico Bitches”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL8qSAiRvI0
On this song, BSS doesn’t sound like they’re trying to impress anyone. This is one of the only times I could ever use the word “solid” to describe a rock song and mean it as a compliment. It’s just well-made indie rock.
11. Javelin – “Dep”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW9PYo_dQn4
This song really captures the sticky desperation of a late-summer heatwave. The beat seems to pour of the speakers like it's melting onto the street.
12. Beat Connection – “In the Water”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvg_Vz3gpBk
This is like the chilled out electronic version of Wavves. It’s surf-rock for laptop owners, and I love it. Kind of reminds me of jj at times, except with more sass.
13. Twin Shadow – “Slow”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZypuUi_Ggc
I usually hate to resort to reductionism like this, but if you like gothy 80s pop like New Order and Depeche Mode, you’ll probably like this song a lot. It’s got beautiful atmosphere with a dark edge, and a soaring chorus.
14. Crystal Castles – “Vietnam”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VG0Ciz2zDHQ
The intro to this song is probably the most menacing thing I heard all year. The buzzing drone at the beginning sounds like it came straight from a classic B horror movie, and once the beat kicks in the song is just slick and spooky.
15. The Apples in Stereo – “Told You Once”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGxo81afyps
This song solidifies the Apples in Stereo as the modern indie ELO. All the cheesey aspects of this song are crammed in perfectly, from the vocoded harmonies on the bridge to the cowbell (cowbell!!!), and it features all the songwriting ingredients to concoct a perfect feel-good springtime jam.
16. Wavves – “Post Acid”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdbrQYER1fI
Wavves’ 2010 album was raucously fun so-cal pop punk. If your secret love of Blink-182 isn’t actually a secret at all, this song is for you. I kind of want to use the phrase “slacker anthem” in this mini-review but I would probably sound like a tool if I did.
17. Cee Lo – “Fuck You”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pc0mxOXbWIU
Does anything really need to be said? It was the catchiest song of the year, but it couldn’t be overplayed and thus ruined because no radio station would play a song called “Fuck You.” The perfect hit song for the youtube age.
18. Gorillaz – “On Melancholy Hill”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QBwtHzdSFM
Damon Albarn is just a genius. Not only does he make sick beatz, he’s a great pop songwriter as well.
19. Mitchell Sumner – “Can You Cee?”http://www.tradebit.com/filedetail.php/
This beautiful psychedelic meditation was my favorite off of Mitch’s debut. It uses repetition perfectly, the main mantra altering enough throughout the song to make sure the structure is built up well. And the breakdowns happen at the perfect spots. Whenever everything comes to a climax, something psychedelic and simple bursts out that keeps the tension. And even though Mitch is a friend of mine, I’m keeping it real with his list placement. If I was just putting him on my list to be a nice guy, wouldn’t I have placed this song higher? That’s how you know I legitimately think this is the 19th best song to come out in 2010…with a one-artist rule intact that is.
20. The Jet Age of Tomorrow – “Don’t Tell the Mermaids”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4gmoZRcud8
This instrumental album from the OFWGKTA collective shows that the producers in the group are more than just hip hop beat-makers. This jazz-influenced song sounds like it came from another planet. The abrupt ending is the only disappointing aspect of the song. And the title isn't just some random stoned phrase like many instrumental hip hop songs are. The title totally fits, because listening to this song feels like going on a deep-sea adventure.
21. Kanye West – “Runaway”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7_jYl8A73g
When I listened to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” I didn’t really believe the “Kanye’s masterpiece” talk until about halfway through this song. It’s the only song on the album where I can actually empathize with Kanye. It’s the only song where he sounds like a real person. I also think it’s important that rappers of his stature push the boundaries. He’s really doing something different than “sample, beat, rhyming couplets, hook” like most mainstream rappers do. There’s really nothing about this song that makes it hip hop actually. I wouldn’t even call Kanye a rapper anymore, just a musician who doesn’t know how to sing. Anyways, this song is rad. I consider it to be Kanye’s “Purple Rain,” because “Purple Rain” is another rad nine minute epic by a genre-hopping superstar. Even if you don't care for new Kanye, I'd reccomend this track.
22. Guilty Simpson – “OJ Simpson”http://www.google.com/url?url=http://il
Madlib is one of the best producers in hip hop today, and he usually works with rappers like MF DOOM who share his alternative bent. So it’s cool to hear weird Madlib beats with typical "hard" lyrics over them. Guilty Simpson raps in a gruff voice about how he’s a better MC than you and he isn’t afraid of you and stuff like that. Plus it's super interesting to hear Madlib's take on a gangsta rap beat.
23. The Last Electro Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble – “Shades of Phil”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTszh5jU3pU
This is not only a cool song (and album), but a cool concept. The Last Electro Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble is one of Madlib’s many jazz bands in which he is the only member. Minus guest performers and live shows, Madlib plays all the instruments in these free jazz tunes. What other hip hop producer does that? Madlib is crazy.
24. The Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rH_7_XRfTMs
Nothing much needs to be said about this gorgeous anthem of suburban life. The lyrics are about finding the beauty in living in suburban sprawl, which matches the beautiful sprawl of the fluttering, expansive beat and melody.
25. Prisoners of Asskaban – “Tres Lokos”http://soundcloud.com/prisoners-of-assk
The defining song of September 2010.